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Support fades for NY Senate leader facing corruption charges

Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, followed by Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, walk out of a legislative session in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Democratic lawmakers walked out of the Senate in protest Wednesday after Republicans refused to allow the vote to remove Dean Skelos as Senate majority leader. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Support further eroded Thursday for the leader of the New York state Senate after his arrest on federal corruption charges, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo said threatened to distract lawmakers from key decisions they face.

Republican State Sen. Kathy Marchione joined a growing list of lawmakers from Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ own party who say he should step down from his leadership position while he fights the charges.

“This is the people’s government, it’s important that we get back to the people’s business,” she said in a statement, noting that she had called Skelos personally to tell him of her decision.

Skelos, of Long Island, was charged Monday with using his position and influence to arrange payments to his son, Adam, from a real estate firm and an environmental technology business. Skelos says he and his son are innocent, and he’s fighting to hold onto his powerful position.

Following the arrest, Senate Republicans met and announced they were standing behind Skelos, who had led the Senate on and off since 2008. But that support faded as the week wore on — and the headlines about the charges added up.

Late Wednesday, 15 Republican senators and one Democrat signed a statement of support for Republican Dean Skelos. Notably missing were the names of the other 17 Republicans in the Senate — indicating that support for Skelos within the GOP conference is in trouble.

“He has the leadership we need to move the Senate forward,” said the statement.

Democrats tried and failed to force a vote on removing Skelos on Wednesday. They are expected to try again when the Legislature returns to Albany on Monday.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said the disruption caused by Skelos’ arrest and the expiration next month of the laws governing the rent regulations and mayoral control of schools in New York City make it all the more important for lawmakers to buckle down.

“Six weeks left. There are many distractions,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “This is not a session to get fancy. I’m focused on getting the basics done.”

For his part, Skelos issued a statement Thursday laying out the challenges that remain before lawmakers can adjourn next month.

Two Republicans are considered strong candidates for the job should Skelos step down or be forced out. Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse was first elected in 1992 and leads the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Jon Flanagan of Suffolk County was first elected in 2002 and chairs the education committee.

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